While I was growing up my family cared for foster children for about ten years. I had foster brothers or sisters in our home from a time frame of anywhere between a few months up to three or more years. Even after my brother and I went to college my mother and father continued opening their home to care for kids.

When you open your home to another person, you also open your heart. As a child and teenager, I do not think I fully understood the impact sharing my family had on my life. There were fun times as we experienced activities, sports, outings, and laughs together. There were also challenging times when toys or possessions were broken, feelings hurt, behavior was bad, and one time, I was thrown up on. It was difficult. I had to learn to share my home and my heart.

As an adult I have had time to reflect on my experiences as a foster brother. I was a friend, a peer, and to many, a brother they never had. I was stretched in ways I would have never been. First, I realize I learned how to love. I learned firsthand how to apply Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Love is not learned from everything being perfect, but from being bruised, blamed or barfed on. I learned that love is not a feeling which comes and goes with circumstances. Love is a verb. An action. And a commitment to the good of the other. Love is not just said, it is shown.

In addition to learning to love, I learned how to empathize with others. God uses many people in many different ways, careers, and callings. Shift work, education, sales, and now pastoring have exposed me to many different people. Being a foster brother has made me a better counselor, neighbor, pastor, friend, father, and husband. Every person is valuable, has a story, room to grow, and purpose for which God made them.

Third, being a foster brother equipped me to be an encouragement to those called to foster, adopt, or give support in varying ways. Our church supports efforts to bring awareness and training to families as they prepare to foster or adopt. Many share their resources, time, and their own stories. I don’t just know about the need, but feel the weight of the need. My wife and I, along with our children, have completed the necessary steps and are ourselves currently waiting to adopt.

Last, being a foster brother helped me see Jesus more clearly. As Philippians chapter two tells us, we are to do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves and to look to Jesus as the ultimate example of selfless sacrifice. Instead of holding on to his rights, he became a servant, emptied himself and humbled himself to the point of death on the cross.

You see, the wisdom of the world says the way up is to promote oneself by stepping on others and to pamper oneself by ignoring others. But in Jesus the way up is the way down. Scripture says Jesus died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:15). It’s all for love. When you open your home and share your life with a foster child, the life that is changed may not just be theirs, but yours. As a foster brother, I know mine was.

Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at chris@fbcmaumelle.org.